Key takeaways on building confidence
- Confidence is not the absence of fear and nervousness, but is part and parcel with anxiety. Confidence is an expression of our human experience.
- It’s impossible to not care what others think about us. The key is to realize that most people are actually rooting for us, and to focus on that instead.
- When we start perceiving our inner critics as adorable scared children desperately trying to keep us safe, our relationship with ourselves shifts: We start nurturing that voice rather than beating it up.
- Confidence isn’t something we teach. It’s something we model.
Q and A on developing confidence
[07:04]Q: What does “confidence” mean to you? Is it inwardly or outwardly expressed?
A: We have a flawed idea of “confidence” in the mainstream. It doesn’t mean no flaws, no doubt, no anxiety, or no nerves. When it comes to confidence, we’re given a false dichotomy: We think that we’re either confident or we are not. For me, the definition of confidence is allowing ourselves to show up in all of the messy action—allowing ourselves to be seen in our brilliance but also our breakdowns. Confidence is not something we have instead of nervousness, but as well as nervousness. Confidence is an expression of our human experience. Confidence is composed of feelings, and so I’m willing to say that everyone has experienced confidence at some point in their lives. No one is a stranger to confidence. Confidence is within all of us. My role is to give people permission to access it, and guide them to habitualize it.
[18:33] Q: What is the line between “confidence” and “boasting”?
A: What arrogant people do is get their validation from external sources. When we do that, it’s from a place of fear. That’s boasting. Confident people are good at validating themselves. They are more likely to stay in their lane. When we learn and develop the skill of confidence, it actually takes us further away from arrogance.
[23:20] Q: How do you build confidence?
A: The first thing we need to know is that, as humans, we have something called the “negativity bias”. This means we are all genetically predisposed to focus on the negative. We do this because it’s a really important survival mechanism. The first step to developing confidence is to know that we’re not born with it. It is something that we have to nurture. We evolved to prefer safety and, to be safe, it makes sense for us to not put our head above the parapet. Use the “well, yeah” method. Scared of the upcoming job interview? Well, yeah. Scared to speak onstage? Well, yeah. When you feel those nerves, that doubt, and that anxiety, I encourage people to meet that with a “well, yeah”. Of course we feel nervous about things. If we don’t meet it with a “well, yeah”, we panic and enter a downward spiral. I’d also recommend you have a “smile file” where you store screenshots or saved compliments others have given you. Refer to your smile file in order to balance out our natural default to tell ourselves that we’re not good enough.
[36:04] Q: How can you feel confident in a room where you feel like you’re the odd one out (ex. being a woman in a workplace mostly made up of older men)?
A: Research has shown that a man’s competence is assumed while a woman’s competence is earned. Get really, really angry about this, because when we get livid, we start honoring our boundaries. From this place of anger, ask yourself two questions: 1) What do I need?; 2) What steps can I take to get it?
[42:31] Q: What tips do you have to be able to not care what other people think?
A: That’s impossible. It’s not about not caring what other people think. It’s about assuming that they’re going to think positively. We are community-driven animals, and so we’re always going to care what other people think. As humans, we evolve to avoid two things: pain and ridicule. Know that most people are good and that your audience has your back. Focus on that over the minority who have something negative to say about you.
[47:36] Q: How do you sell yourself without going, “Me! Me! Me!”?
A: First off, what’s wrong with saying, “Me! Me! Me!”? We’re trying to sell something, so that’s okay. As humans, we have something called “secondary gains”. We’re not motivated by one thing. We’re motivated by multiple different things. When you sell, you might be selling yourself, your skills, your services. We are allowed to self-advocate—to talk about what we’re good at. By talking about what you’re good at, you’re not taking anything away from anyone else. The real key here is twofold: intentionality and transparency. We have to share our perspective from a very real and emotional place. The “Me! Me! Me!” won’t feel quite right if what you’re saying doesn’t align with what you actually believe about yourself; whereas, when I sell my skills, people really respond to it because I really believe it and I’m excited about it.
[52:18] Q: How do you instill confidence in others? Is that even our responsibility?
A: Confidence isn’t something we teach. It’s something we model. In order to instill confidence in others, we need to be expressing confidence ourselves. That’s the first thing. Next, allow people the space to feel scared or nervous. The reason I’m so good at my job is because I’m very comfortable being a mess. I strive for impact, not perfection. I talk about my anxiety and my mistakes. At the same time, I have a robust self-esteem and I’m incredibly confident.
[54:27] Q: My agency is growing, but I feel that my confidence in front of clients comes at the cost of my mental health. I can’t keep up my smile in other areas of my life.
A: This feels like a delegation consideration. Delegate tough tasks and ask ourselves how you’ll feel about each big decision after six months.
[55:57] Q: Do you have any tips about having very difficult conversations at work without getting visibly upset and remaining confident?
A: Preparation is key. Set boundaries by not focusing only on the things that don’t feel good. Instead, ask, “What do I want instead?” Setting boundaries is about asking for the other thing.
[57:21] Q: I always thought that I’d have more confidence as I get older. I’ve actually found it to be the other way around. I feel like I was far more confident in my 20s.
A: A lot of people assume that we get “there” when it comes to confidence. That’s not really the case because, as we learn and grow and strive, life comes along and pushes us in the face. Decide to reclaim your confidence by teaching yourself the skill of confidence again. Go back to the drawing board. That’s a beautiful thing.